Edgartown supports Chilmark’s MVRHS formula

Fourth of July fireworks at risk.

The Island's select boards will "get in a room" to figure out a funding formula for their share of a new high school. -MV Times

The Edgartown select board unanimously endorsed a funding formula for a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) building project first proposed by the Chilmark select board member James Malkin. 

Under Malkin’s proposal, each down-Isand town would pay 25 percent of construction costs and the up-Island towns would collectively pay the remaining 25 percent.

Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty shared a presentation about the estimated costs using the proposed formula. Hagerty said he contacted the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools to see what impact this type of formula would have on other school districts in the state, but found there was no similar situation. Most formulas are either based on population or enrollment, he said. 

So Hagerty created his own model to see how much it would cost the towns, using an estimate of $100 million for the project. “It could be a little bit less or a little more, but I think we’re very safe to say this high school is going to cost roughly $100 million,” Hagerty said. 

Hagerty’s formula assumes the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will pay 38 cents per dollar (cap of $25 million), and the Island tax levy will pay for the remaining $75 million. In the debt service calculator Hagerty used, $75 million would need to be borrowed with an interest rate of 3.5 percent for a term of 20 years. This led the principal and the interest to add up to $105,541,615 for the towns to split.

With these numbers in mind, Hagerty showed what it would be like to use Chilmark’s formula, versus a “per pupil” model. The capital cost over 20 years with the per-pupil model shows Edgartown would pay $24,815,734, Oak Bluffs pays $29,898,475, Tisbury pays $28,403,551, and the up-Island towns would pay $22,423,856. Meanwhile, the Chilmark formula would have each down-Island town paying $26,385,404 and the same price collectively for the down-Island towns. Hagerty concluded that with the Chilmark formula, Edgartown and up-Island towns would collectively contribute roughly $5 million more, but Oak Bluffs and Tisbury would collectively pay around $5 million less.

“We should thank Chilmark for putting this forward, getting the ball rolling talking about the school,” Edgartown select board member Arthur Smadbeck said. “This seems to be a pretty fair way of doing it.” 

“You’ve seen the numbers. It’s a compromise,” Hagerty said. “I think that’s how you move forward with a lot of things — with compromise.”

The board unanimously agreed to let Chilmark know that they are willing to entertain the idea. 

“We do need a new school, there’s no question about that,” Edgartown select board chair Michael Donaroma said.

In relation to funding the high school’s future construction, a joint meeting among MVRHS and the six towns’ select boards has been posted for Monday, March 14, to make a MSBA funding announcement alongside discussing next steps. 

In other business, the board approved several permits. Conover was issued a permit to block a public way, which will happen at Peases Point Way at the interconnected property 73 Davis Lane to build a pool on Friday, March 11, depending on the weather. Marcelo Construction received a permit to block a sidewalk at 7 North Water St. to make renovations to the Edgartown Mad Martha’s. The permit allowed for 24 hours a day starting on Tuesday, March 8, for two weeks. Mad Martha’s owner Brook Katzen said realistically, the renovation will take two to three days, just during the daytime. Another company, Fenner, received an excavation permit for Mullen Way, Peases Point Way South, and Edgartown Bay Road, for work at houses on these streets starting on Tuesday, March 8, for seven days. 

The board unanimously approved the change in prices for the Edgartown conservation commission’s filing fees. The category one notice-of-intent fee remains the same at $67.50, but other categories jumped in prices. For example, the local notice-of-intent fee went up from $25 to $100, and certification of compliance fees went up from 0 to $100. These fees will go into effect in April. 

“Some of them take more work than just reviewing an application,” Edgartown conservation agent Jane Varkonda said. 

Edgartown is pursuing the shared streets grant offered by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Hagerty said the plan is to work with the Vineyard Transit Authority to improve Church Street and Peases Point Way, such as cleaning up the “unsightly part,” with bicycle racks and dirt, near the intersection of these two roads. 

Hagerty brought to the board’s attention the issue the town is having with its plans for Fourth of July fireworks. The town plans to have a Fourth of July parade and fireworks, but nobody has stepped forward to submit bids for the fireworks so far. Hagerty worked with the town’s finance committee to increase the amount the town would pay. However, he thinks a discussion may be needed for what is an acceptable price for a pyrotechnician if nobody submits a bid. 



  1. Crazy $100M for a building it might be less money to send the kids to Falmouth. Most of us still wonder why we do not have a middle school which could be better for the kids and the Tax Payer.

    Let’s put some trees back in (On Church St) where we can it was a shame we lost a beautiful old tree in trying to be Green. Always makes me sad when they want to kill trees to be Green.

  2. Crazy?
    Crazy is forcing Island kids to spend three hours a day on transportation.
    Not to mention crazy expensive.
    Difficulty in participation in sports.
    Falmouth just tossed Mashpee out of their high school.
    What makes you think they want Island kids?
    Just one middle school for the whole Island?
    How much will that cost the taxpayer?

  3. Albert obviously sarcasm does not come through to you or maybe others. The point is that is huge real taxpayer money.
    But my second thought is viable and should get more discussion look at what the individual towns have spent on schools over the years and what Tisbury is doing right now. The way this island is so anti-regionalization it amazes me we even have just the one high school. It must’ve been an extraordinary group of public officials back in the day when they got together and made that happen. We need more extraordinary group of public officials today. The island taxpayer spends way too much on police, fire, schools county government which is not even needed and should be abolished like the rest of county governments across the state.

    • Couple of questions. Who will pay to build a middle school that houses 500 or so students? Will this be a school without administration or special Ed? Will there not be a nurse. Admin staff? Librarian? Counselors? How will you separate the needs in the elementary schools? You make it sound magical. You will need more custodians and bus routes. Lunch staff. And this will save the taxpayers money how over the current K-8 buildings. It’s not about leaders. This is really simple math!

  4. Why not build a regional middle school instead of another elementary school? With the tax rates in VH increasing and the average price of housing exceeding a million dollars, families cannot afford to live here. I think it’s crazy that each town is paying for an elementary school and a portion of the high school especially when the towns are not geographically equal. We need to seriously consider regionalizing all of the schools and tightening the belt on any excess spending. The increase in taxes, gas, food and other essentials is not sustainable for many islanders and many of them are forced to move.

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